THE INVESTIGATORS: Some applicants cautiously optimistic as make-up days announced for DSNAP
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is tacking on an extra week for folks to sign up for DSNAP but some who already missed their window the first time are cautiously optimistic that they will actually get to apply in October. DCFS Secretary Marketa Walters announced the extra make-up days will fall on Monday- Wednesday, Oct. 11-13.
“So this will be a fourth phase and we will be able to open it up to all 25 parishes,” said Walters.
The move comes two days after the 9News Investigators started asking questions about those who have not been able to get through. The number of folks who slipped through the cracks includes thousands.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked for an exact estimate of how many callers did not get a returned call.
”I can tell you, I mean it’s right around probably close to 2,000 people who may not have gotten a callback but that’s a total over all of phase one,” said DCFS Assistant Secretary Shavana Howard.
One of those callers Suwan Steele tells WAFB she waited on the phone for several hours during the first wave of sign-ups.
”I called over 100 times. I call Wednesday which was my assigned day and then I called Friday and I called Saturday and the waits were horrible,” said Steele. “If you could get through then mostly I got a busy signal.”
Steele said she called several times last week and when she tried again this week she says a worker told her she missed her window to apply.
“When we did get through, finally on that Monday, we were told, ‘we can’t help you’,” said Steele.
When WAFB asked the folks at DCFS about it, they say the process will not allow them to reopen a phase once the window has already closed.
”Once a phase is finished, it’s finished and so we can’t go back and pick up all those callers until that fourth week and that is something that we’ve worked out with our federal partners,” said Howard.
Folks across Louisiana who had to throw out food after losing power because of Ida have spent the last two weeks trying to apply to get help from the state to replace the groceries they lost. So far, workers have processed 109,503 cases. Of that number, 80,947 have been approved and 29,556 have been denied. Leaders with DCFS say they are swamped but they’re not giving up.
”We want to catch everybody. That’s our goal,” said Walters. “That’s always our goal is to serve every single person that we can.”
Even with those extra days, some folks have complained that the benefits are income-based leaving many without help. Leaders say it is decided on the federal level and there’s not much they can do.
”This is a federal program,” said Howard. “The state doesn’t have the authority to set or change criteria on a federal program.”
Steele just hopes the extra days actually deliver.
”I think some people are still gone get left out, even after that three-day extension and I’m hoping they just work until they accommodate everybody,” said Steele.
The days are once again broken down by the first letter of the applicant’s last name. It will include all 25 parishes affected.
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